I LOVE Megumi Project, after visiting them in Onagawa earlier this year, there was no way I wasn’t including them on this list.
Megumi Project are the ultimate upcyclers: bringing new life to hundreds of old kimonos across Japan in the form of anything and everything, from accessories to notebooks to homeware. Megumi, which means grace or blessing in Japanese, originally began in the wake of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which washed away 80% of Onagawa. There’s a historical tradition in Japan of upcycling kimonos that stretches back as far as the Edo period (1603-1868), one which local resident Youko Kato had been continuing in her own upcycling of kimonos and yukatas for years as a hobby. She teamed up with Lorna Gilbert, who came to the area to help the rebuilding efforts, and set up Megumi project: taking old kimonos from those who no longer want them and making them into new, beautiful items. You can watch more of their story here
Today Megumi’s upcycled items includes journals, bags, scarves, ties, hair accessories, jewellery, table runners and more in endless unique variations. The kimono is a valuable part of Japan’s history but it has mostly disappeared from everyday use, now mainly reserved for events such as weddings and funerals. Nowadays 30 billion dollars worth of kimonos sit unused all over Japan, but increasingly they are being donated to Megumi Project, in keeping with Japan’s tradition for upcycling the kimono. The Japanese term mottanai refers to a refusal to be wasteful and a respect of your resources; Megumi Project considers themselves part of this tradition as they find responsible uses for the huge numbers of kimonos donated to them from across the country, whilst also honouring the kimono’s history and spreading knowledge of the kimono across the world.
Having been to personally visit Megumi project and having met the workers, I can honestly say I love this organisation. They do incredible work and make incredible pieces, I bought a headband for myself which I wear all the time and completely love. So this holiday season why not bin big business and support small, sustainable companies that contribute to rebuilding community. The tsunami in Japan may have faded from headlines, but these lives still go on, and you could play a part in rebuilding them with your holiday shopping.
Until tomorrow, stay magic y’all.
Image via unsplash.